Archive for August, 2011

A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton

August 31, 2011

[Cindy]

This is the first of Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series. There’s great emotional truth to all the characters, and Hamilton exercises restraint in his hero’s musings, as well as in the overall portrayal of a man haunted by his perceived failures.  Nothing is predictable and the characters are fully-drawn, in particular the mad and pathetic Rose.

Hamilton does a fairly good representation of Michigan’s Upper Pennisula and the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan/Ontario and area. Clearly he has spent enough time there to cite specific locations and directions, and he captures the atmosphere. The location lends a different backdrop to basic plotlines, and he works that backdrop into the stories in this series. I grew up in the U. P. and am familiar with his various locales. 

If you like intrigue, suspense, surprises, excellent character and plot development and an answer to the mystery that is at your fingertips but just out of your reach, this book is for you.  I have recommended this series to others and will continue to do so as I look forward to the next book.  Misery Bay,  his newest book,  kept me guessing until the end. 

You don’t need to start at the beginning of the series, but parts of the stories do build on each other and I find it enjoyable to get to know the characters and relationships.

A Cold Day In Paradise 2000
Winter of the Wolf Moon 2001
The Hunting Wind 2002
North of Nowhere 2003
Blood is the Sky 2004
Ice Run 2005

A Stolen Season 2006

Misery Bay 2011

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DVD Review: MI-5

August 22, 2011

[Bill L.]

DVD Review: BBC TV Series: MI-5

First Transmission in UK: Spring 2002

First Transmission in US: 2003 via PBS

Of the many essays and short stories that Robert Benchley (grandfather of Peter Benchley of the “Jaws” saga fame) wrote during his all too short life in the 1920’s thru the mid 40’s one of my favourites has always been the explanation, in his gentile and droll way, of the joys of espionage. And how it is that they, spies, that add a cosmopolitan air to a city. What with furtive meetings and the passing and rustling of secret papers, As long, of course, as they don’t blow up any of the newer buildings.

Alas, Benchley could have in no way anticipated the horror of the events of 9/11 in that long ago period between the Great World Wars. That those unimaginable horrors are real and remain with us bring us to the BBC espionage series MI-5. Whatever we think politically it is fair to say that the modern world is a very dangerous place, with alas, some very dangerous and desperate people in it.

The action drama series MI-5 portrays “Section D” of British internal security service MI-5, similar to our FBI, in this dangerous time. Obviously a work of fiction, yet nevertheless, very well written with top notch acting and that quality so often lacking in American TV, moral ambiguity and personal depth of characters. Known as “Spooks” in the UK, Ireland and most of the rest of the world, but for identification  purposes in the US by it unofficial /official moniker. “Spooks” is British pejorative slang for spies.

The series is in its tenth year. The WML is pleased to have the first season, or series. We hope to acquire more. Each episode is a full 60 minutes long, and as there are no commercials, the writers are not forced to prostitute themselves with the [numerous] anti-climaxes required by American commercial television. We are treated to a less than flattering view of elected officials, politicians, businesspeople and we Americans are not always seen as shall we say “on the side of the Angels”. Lest this be seen as anti-Americanism, this is not the case. We are shown that there is plenty of thuggery to go around in the world. And that there is plenty of it in the UK, much of it displayed by MI-5’s “sister” the shadowy MI-6 external security service. There is also plenty of action and often nail biting at that. Brilliant.

We are often show a delightful moral ambiguity as I have said, as well as a less then “just following orders” mentality implying actual morality and humanity of the characters. We are shown the loss of real power of the UK, of its reduction to a second [or third] class status behind the overwhelming power of America. We are shown frightful behaviour barely seen in domestic TV. MI-5 is grim, gritty and very intelligent. Will it bother your conscience? Probably. It is in my opinion the best series on television.

We are shown that the concept of “the need to know” often has terrible consequences and implications in a democratic society. That the good guys don’t always win in the nick of time. That bad things happen to good people and that good things often happen to bad people. And that often after a lot of hard work and sacrifice nothing happens at all. It is a great way to lose yourself for an hour or two. If this intrigues you, please have a look at this addictive series. It only gets better with time.

bill littlefield

 

 

The Cars – Move Like This Music CD

August 17, 2011

[Bill L.]

The Cars; Move Like This.

Release Date: 10 May, 2011

 

It is rare for a rock/pop group to make a successful comeback. I mean a real comeback. There are fewer still who can manage it after, say four or five years, but twenty-four years later? But then there are also, few if any, groups like The Cars. “Move Like This”, is one of those things that ought not to exist. And that is part of the thrill and the deliciousness of it all. The iconic techno-rock band seems on first listen to take up where “Door to Door” left off in 1987. And that is not in any way a bad thing. I sure wish I could.

Alas, Benn Orr the other singer, writer or co-vocalist if you will, died in 2000. So Ric Ocasek, writer and now sole vocalist, must carry on alone, which he does with aplomb. Even if with just a bit of thinness in his voice to let you know that time has indeed passed, it is in no way objectionable. His guitar playing, however as with the other band members performances, is as it always was, which is to say flawless.

If you are, or were, a “Cars” fan you will already know all of this. If not you don’t, won’t and just aren’t interested. Which is too bad because of all of the 80’s bands “The Cars” exemplified the “Boston sound” more British/Irish than American, but more gritty than the [usually] smooth UK sound. With more fun, pain and irony than is, or was, usual for American music of that time. The Eagles perhaps excluded.

“Move like this” picks up where Door to Door left off in 1987. The title of the work is a rather inside joke as “The Cars” unlike some groups really didn’t /don’t do much on stage except play, they just sort of stand there, thus the inside joke. There is another inside joke as well and it concerns the actual name of the band. In the late 70’s synthesizers became to be if not common at least not as rare as they had once been. And pop/rock music that used such equipment became known as “Gear” music because of—obviously the equipment itself. As well as the higher energy electronic sound. The joke was that there are a lot of gears in cars and this band used a lot of synthesizers, and so, well, you’ve got to call the band something so…

Again if you loved The Cars in the 80’s you are almost certain to love “Move Like This” I really did and I very much still do. It is a real blast from the past, here today.

bill littlefield

 

 

Bright’s Passage, by Josh Ritter

August 8, 2011

[Lesley]  This novel by musician Josh Ritter is one of the best I’ve read — not just this year, but ever.  It is an interesting, mysterious, suspenseful story about a WWI veteran and his return to civilian living — guided by an angel.  We never quite know if the angel is “real” or a product of his war-damaged mind, but either way the story moves dangerously forward as if to a fated ending.  The story effectively moves between the present time and flashbacks to Henry’s war experiences, giving us a vivid picture of the horrors of trench warfare and the dark places in the human heart as well.  There is a lyrical quality to Ritter’s prose, his musician nature is very present in the narrative and description.